Prosecutors were set to testify in front of a jury for the final time on Tuesday before the panel began deliberations in the trial of three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
Because the prosecution bears the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt in the instance of the 25-year-old Black man’s death, it has the last say.
On Monday, prosecutors and defense attorneys spent hours making closing arguments, which lasted until the next day.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley will give the overwhelmingly white jury directions on how to interpret the law when the prosecution concludes at the Glynn County courthouse in the harbor city of Brunswick.
After a gruesome video of Arbery’s death was published online two months later, his tragedy became part of a greater national awakening on racial injustice.
After discovering Arbery sprinting through their community on Feb. 23, 2020, father and son Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed pistols and chased him down in a pickup truck. Arbery swung punches and grabbed for McMichael’s shotgun while a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and recorded footage of Travis McMichael opening fire as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for McMichael’s weapon.
Until Bryan’s video leaked and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took up the investigation from local cops, no one was prosecuted in the death. All three guys have been charged with murder as well as other crimes.
“They chose to assault Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black guy running down the street,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said in her opening statement to the jurors on Monday.
The McMichaels were trying a valid citizen’s arrest when they set out after Arbery, hoping to hold and interview him as a suspected burglar after he was observed escaping from a neighboring home under construction, according to defense counsel.
Travis McMichael, according to attorney Jason Sheffield, discharged his shotgun in self-defense when Arbery came at him, threw punches, and attempted to take the weapon. Arbery’s death, Sheffield said, was a tragedy, but one that he caused himself.
Arbery was also implicated by the attorneys for the other two defendants. Arbery “choosed to fight,” according to Laura Hogue, an attorney representing Greg McMichael. Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, questioned why Arbery did not call for aid if he was in danger.
“Perhaps it’s because Mr. Arbery doesn’t want assistance,” Gough speculated.
There was no indication that Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ area, according to prosecutors. He had enrolled in a technical college and was studying to become an electrician like his uncles at the time.